- a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.
Football is back, ladies and gentlemen!
Players and coaches from your favorite teams around the league are checking into hotels and dorms, some in their team’s home cities or elsewhere, for training camps. The Redskins travel down I-95 to Richmond, and the Cowboys hop a jet out to Oxnard, California. This is just the beginning of an intense two-plus weeks of everything football.
The coaches and players know that the majority of roster spots are locked up by the previous years’ starters, recent free agent additions, and the occasional draft pick…but there are a few spots that are up for the taking. That brings opportunity. It’s all you can ask for as a player, the opportunity, the chance to show what you can do and make the 53-man roster.
My first year in the league was in 2008 with the Miami Dolphins. A large migration of former Dallas Cowboys players and coaches made their way to South Beach and I got to compete with these guys and in front of Tony Sparano, Jeff Ireland, and the legendary, Bill Parcells.
Let’s get this straight, the NFL isn’t “fair.” Top players will get more at bats than an undrafted player like myself, and the same goes for every other player who fills out the 90-man camp roster. Steelers special teams coach, Danny Smith, used to say “Hell, I wanna be the head coach, but that ain’t gonna happen!”, alluding to the fact that there are only 22 starters and only a few will actually play special teams. The same applies here, those undrafted and priority free agents who were added after the draft aren’t guaranteed anything and have to take advantage of every opportunity that is thrown their way.
When you’re on the bottom half of the roster, you have to be perfect. You can’t afford to drop one pass, or miss a blocking assignment. You’re responsible for all 300 pages of the playbook as the starter is, except you don’t get the reps to actually practice it. It’s on you to study and pay attention in meetings and on the field so that when your number is called, you can do your job.
Fast forward to 2009-10, I was recently signed to the Washington practice squad. Morocco Brown, the player personnel guy, advised me to talk to Danny Smith and let him know I would do anything he needed to make the team. Need a holder? I got you. Hit the wedge? I got you. Whatever I had to do, I was willing to do it because I knew the opportunities would be few and far between.
That upcoming year, the Shanahan regime came into town and while I did have the opportunity to take my talents to Duval County, I decided to stay in Ashburn and fight for a roster spot. I just needed to take advantage of the opportunity to ball out in front of an entirely new coaching staff and GM.
The bet paid off. Donovan McNabb was acquired as our Easter miracle and I wanted to be his DeSean Jackson. Every time Kyle Shanahan would call a deep pass, Five and I would connect. That connection carried throughout the off-season, training camp, and eventually the season. I ended up third in the league in yards per catch behind DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace – not bad company.
Take advantage of every opportunity that is thrown your way. Don’t complain about your spot on the roster. Do what it takes to climb the depth chart! If you’re only getting three reps per day, you had better make them three perfect reps. Coaches notice. Next practice you might get five, then eight, eventually coach may throw you in on the backside of a run play with the ones to give the starters a blow. You gotta show up!
The opportunities are all around us, folks. We overlook them, and feel like we are too good to compete.
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